The financial deficit facing the NHS in Norfolk is likely to soar to more than half a billion pounds over the next five years without radical action, officials have warned.
A new document, known as a sustainability and transformation plan, is currently being developed to shape new models of health and social care in the county.
But West Norfolk campaigners say they fear that is a prelude to service cuts and demonstrates the sector is not being funded properly.
The extent of the crisis is being highlighted following a new petition by the 38 Degrees campaign group, which demands that local politicians step in to help secure more funding for the NHS.
It claims that the NHS in Norfolk and Waveney is facing a potential funding deficit of almost £400 million by 2021.
But documents placed before the region’s health and wellbeing board suggest the figure, which is already £71 million, could climb to as much as £545 million over the same period.
Dr Wendy Thomson, the managing director of Norfolk County Council, who chairs the board, said the various bodies involved must work together to ensure that patients are cared for in their own homes wherever possible.
She said: “Today’s health care needs to support people who are living longer and managing several long-term often chronic conditions.
“This will mean the behaviour of clinicians, administrators and, not least, all of us, will have to change in order to promote health and put our services on a sustainable footing. We need to spend every pound as effectively as possible.”
However, critics claim Norfolk’s situation is part of a much wider NHS funding gap which adds up to around £23 billion.
Downham patients’ representative Dan O’Connor claimed it was “dishonest” to talk of transformation in that context and said no details of what the plan might entail had yet been released.
He warned: “If these cuts are forced through locally and nationally, they will destroy our health service, not transform or sustain it.
“These NHS deficits are artificially created by a policy of deliberate underfunding.”
Mr O’Connor argued that the government’s commitment to more than £50 billion of investment in the HS2 rail link and overseas aid instead of the NHS showed its priorities were wrong and were an “insult” to patients.
Labour activist Jo Rust added: “This is being forced by government failure to properly fund our NHS.”